The Key Reasons Mueller Should Be Removed as Special Prosecutor
While serving as Director of the FBI, Robert S. Mueller III was known for being taciturn, straitlaced, and reluctant to suffer fools.
I know because I served under him as a Special Agent for nearly one half of my quarter-century FBI career. And for even those amongst my colleagues who disagreed with Mueller’s policy decisions while at the helm of the FBI, never heard was criticism of his character or his service to our nation as a US Marine, federal prosecutor at the Department of Justice, or FBI Director.
So, let’s stipulate that Robert Mueller is a man of honor and unimpeachable probity and ethics.
Now, allow me to lay out the Key reasons why he should be immediately removed as special counsel in the probe of Russia’s interference into the 2016 presidential election cycle and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
And in doing so, please do not conflate my calling for his removal with the vocal chorus of folks who stubbornly insist there was no malfeasance by members of Trump’s campaign and transition teams. We’ve already seen indictments and a plea deal. Whether proof of criminal activity reaching the White House is discovered or not is immaterial. There’s plenty enough “Smoke” to suggest that scrutiny of same may very well lead to the discovery of “fire.”
Our focus should be affixed squarely on the parameters of recusal.
And this term — broadly defined as removing oneself from a proceeding whereby one’s impartiality may be legitimately questioned — generally pertains to justices, judges, and magistrates.
However, it may also attach to lawyers who determine that an ethical conflict may impair their ability to be wholly impartial.
Another potential avenue of investigation arising out of the investigation into collusion may potentially center on obstruction of justice charges. Fired FBI Director James B. Comey, Jr.’s leaked memo to The New York Times, whereby he chronicled a number of meetings and telephone calls with President Trump, can and certainly will be reviewed for potential obstruction of justice charges against the president and his staff.
Ergo, in order of occurrence, are my three reasons for demanding the recusal or removal of the special prosecutor:
First: Robert Mueller has a personal relationship with a central figure and key witness in the collusion case, his successor at the FBI, former Director James B. Comey, Jr.
The investigation into Russia’s interference into our election was begun during Comey’s tenure at the FBI. Unconvinced that Mueller and Comey enjoy a cozy and special relationship?
Well, look no further than the March 11, 2004, Stellar Wind hospital bedside showdown between Comey/Mueller and the Bush White House.
The story is legend.
It entails reports that Comey, then the Deputy Attorney General, enlisted the aid of Mueller, then FBI director, to block George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, and White House counsel, Alberto Gonzalez, from gaining the signature of the stricken ill Attorney General, John Ashcroft, who was confined to a hospital bed.
The Bush White House desperately wanted to have the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program (codenamed: Stellar Wind) reauthorized. Comey and Mueller were united in their opposition to the manner in which it was seemingly being effected. Their alliance in confronting the White House, at the peril of both of their jobs, forged an indelible and lasting relationship and friendship.
This type of Beltway high drama, and the potential for both to tender their resignations in solidarity, cannot be dismissed as much ado about nothing.
Second: President Trump interviewed Robert Mueller for the FBI Director position 1 day before Mr. Mueller was tapped to be the special prosecutor.
This reason should require no explanation.
It says a lot that Mueller wouldn’t have immediately conflicted himself out of consideration for a position with almost unchecked powers to investigate a man who had interviewed him for a potential reappointment to head the FBI.
Third: Robert Mueller’s dubious decision to load his prosecution team with donors to Democratic politicians.
While Mueller, himself a longtime Republican, can certainly be expected to hire the best lawyers he sees fit to bring aboard his team, the disparity in political leanings, affiliation, and support is damning. Yes, federal prosecutors and investigators are entitled to donate to political campaigns and support candidates of their choosing, as long as it is not on company time.
But in these, the most hyper-partisan times, our divided country needs to feel that every effort is made to ensure diversity — not just of skin color, religious adherence, or gender identification, but of thought.
Politifact fact-checked the damning claim — “[Mueller] has brought in Democrat campaign donors at a very high level” on his team of prosecutors — by Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) and rated it Half-True.
But what Politifact identified was this:
Six of the fifteen assembled lawyers made no campaign contributions to any political campaigns at any level.
Among those who did make contributions, $62,043.00 went to Democrats and $2,750.00 went to Republicans.
Three of the lawyers gave money to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign (total of $700.00), and three gave a total of $18,100.00 to either her 2008 or 2016 campaigns for the presidential nomination.
These things are simply not evidence of any wrongdoing or even partiality. But, as with recusal concerns, it is the perception of partiality that demands better judgment from a special counsel who should have conflicted himself out of this investigation even before he was appointed.
I reiterate that Robert S. Mueller III is a fine man and a career public servant of deserved high regard from both sides of the aisle.
But it is 2017.
The stakes have changed.
People are far less trustful of the process and of their elected, and appointed officials. And thus, Mr. Mueller should be removed as special prosecutor forthwith.
There are plenty of investigations demanding a capable prosecutor of good repute. In any other investigation, his consideration for the top legal post would be an astute choice.
But not this one.
Paul Ebeling, Editor
Editor’s Note: James A. Gagliano is a 1987 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Following his service as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, he entered the FBI, serving in a myriad of positions in the investigative, tactical resolution (SWAT), undercover, diplomatic and executive management realms. He was a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and has posted to assignments in Afghanistan, Mexico City, and parts of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He retired in December of 2015 from the FBI’s New York City Office. He currently serves as a Law Enforcement Analyst for CNN, provides Leadership consultation for corporate clients of the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG) at his alma mater, and instructs undergraduates at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, where he earned an M.P.S. in Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Leadership in 2016. To read more of his reports